This is an accessible and engaging book that introduces the reader to philanthrocapitalism i.e. the idea that the principals and experiences of entrepreneurial capitalism (and capitalists) can be used to address some of the world's most intractable social problems. Whilst concentrating on the present the authors acknowledge the historical ancestry of their ideas starting with an overview of the philanthropic legacy of notable capitalists business leaders such as Carnegie and Rockefeller. However, the book is mainly concerned with the present day and there are numerous practical examples of innovative contemporary philanthropy e.g. Gates Foundation, One, (RED), Google, etc. The authors are not afraid to shy away from some of the tensions and disagreements that exist, for example referring to the falling-out between Pierre Omidyar (Ebay) and Muhammed Yunis (Grameen) over the appropriateness and impact of profit-making for micro-finance schemes.
Interestingly Philanthrocapitalism was originally published in 2008 and was therefore written before the full onset of the current economic crisis, and as such the rather buoyant and optimistic view of the potential benefits of contemporary capitalism may now seem a little out of place. Comments such as "In the past, we have looked to governments to tackle these problems [poverty, climate change] but their track record has been at best mixed" will not be to everyone's likening, especially in the midst of repeat government/taxpayer bailouts of the banks, swingeing austerity measures and growing income inequality. Indeed the readers enjoyment and agreement with this book will be largely influenced by their own views of both the nature of philanthropy and capitalism. There were occasions where this book made me very angry, and it did more to re-connect me with my inner socialist than any book or paper I have ever read. One would not have to be a hardened Marxist to suggest that some of the social problems that the authors suggest philanthrocapitalism could address are in themselves products of our current model of free-market capitalism.
An interesting and very readable book by two knowledgable and genuinely well-intentioned authors. However, not everyone will share the authors' enthusiasm for their capitalist inspired diagnosis and proposed treatment for the worlds social ills.